Town in tears over gadabout gobbler

In Easton, Freddy was mascot and menace

When the end came for Freddy, many people, like Tom Cudworth, who set up a memorial, were sad. When the end came for Freddy, many people, like Tom Cudworth, who set up a memorial, were sad. (David L. Ryan/Globe Staff)
By Peter Schworm
Globe Staff / August 8, 2009

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EASTON - Browser of dollar stores, bane of bikers, and treasured mascot of the Five Corners intersection, Freddy the Turkey drank life to the lees. He perched imperiously on shop benches, gazed at his visage in bank windows, strutted across busy streets like he was on parade. From Maguire’s Bar & Grill to Furnace Brook Motors, sometimes all the way to Target, he ruled the roost.

In a town with 15 percent conservation land, the wild turkey craved the limelight, shunning the woods for the speed and bustle of the main drag. He was no domestic, like his commercially raised cousins. No farm could have contained him.

Sadly, Freddy wasn’t built for suburban life. He snarled traffic with his insouciant strolls and attacked motorcycles with unexplained ferocity. An increasing menace to motorists, the beloved bird was shot by police last week, his life tragically cut short by his full-throttle lifestyle and a raft of complaints - including one from a motorcyclist who was forced into oncoming traffic after a head-on attack.

“It’s like losing a member of the community,’’ said Debra Grunin, a founder of a Facebook page, “Five Corners Turkey,’’ in the bird’s honor. “Like losing a friend.’’

Shooting Freddy was a last resort, police say, after he eluded capture and flew into the woods. But many are unconvinced and say the bird deserved better. For the many workers and residents whose commutes and errands were brightened by Freddy’s preening presence over the past year, his untimely departure has struck a wistful chord. Yesterday, Freddy’s many fans paid their respects at a makeshift memorial at Furnace Brook Motors, one of the turkey’s favorite haunts. At the urging of Grunin and her friend Alaina Urquhart on the Facebook page, which now has more than 1,500 fans, crowds dropped off canned goods for the local food pantry as a tribute. Others brought flowers, and three girls - Reagan, Zoe, and Caris - left a sign that read, “We miss you Freddy,’’ with a heart over the I.’’

Pepperidge Farm dropped off a large, inflatable turkey, and nearly every other driver honked in tribute as they passed by.

“He had become an icon,’’ said Tom Cudworth, a salesman at the dealership, which earlier this week set up the memorial with a plastic rooster they happened to have on hand and a cardboard sign reading, “RIP Freddy the Turkey.’’

“Not a day went by that he wasn’t along this stretch. People become very attached to him.’’

Chuckling at his antics, many locals tenderly recalled how he would stare for long stretches at his own reflection, sun himself on the bench outside the liquor store, and hide under parked trucks when the rain came. Friendly to most, especially to those carrying food, his disdain for motorcycles knew no bounds. When one drove by, he squawked and pecked after it with furious focus. If he spotted one in the parking lot, he would stare it down until its owner came, then screech at him in protest.

“He would really go after them,’’ said Urquhart, 23. “At the light, motorcycles would wait for the cars to move up a little, so they could have a runway to get away.’’

When not chasing off Harleys, Freddy basked leisurely in the spotlight. Kids snapped pictures. Grown men brought him food. Testy commuters yielded to his meanderings with a smile, even getting out of the car to shoo him safely to the side. Freddy, it seemed, always had the right of way.

“It was his road,’’ said Geri Peterson, a clerk at Independent Liquors. “He was our mascot.’’

Those who knew Freddy chuckle at how his death has, as one CVS cashier put it, “taken on a life of its own.’’ But joking aside, many say the turkey is genuinely missed. To the families who made a daily contest out of Freddy-spotting, Freddy was a connection, a reassuring constant.

At the Dollar Market, where the front door was propped open as if waiting for Freddy to come scurrying along, Freddy was a steady customer, if a bit of a pinchpenny. He browsed, but never bought.

“He was here all the time,’’ said Brahim Hina, a 21-year-old clerk at the store. “Everyone loved him. He was part of the family.’’

Across the street, Neil Levine, owner of Maguire’s Bar & Grill, decided it would be a fitting tribute to put an open-faced Freddy sandwich - fresh turkey, cranberry sauce, and gravy on grilled garlic bread - on the lunch menu.

Too soon, said a waitress, Tracey Kelly Motta.

“I’m not going to say that out loud,’’ she said. “I’ll say the specials are on the board. We’ll have a lawsuit on our hands.’’

Amid all that, many agreed with police that the bird posed a threat to public safety, and that it was only a matter of time before he caused an accident. Indeed, Freddy was caught on film chasing a motorcyclist, who then posted the footage on YouTube.

Police defended their handling of the situation against critics who wanted the turkey relocated. State wildlife officials, an officer said, advised them to euthanize the bird because it might introduce diseases into a new habitat. “We’ve gotten a lot of angry calls,’’ said Sergeant James McAvoy. “People wanted us to relocate him, tranquilize him, give him a college education and free medical care. But he had become a menace.’’

Recently, a motorcyclist told police the bird flew at his face while he was stopped at a red light, forcing him to drive into oncoming traffic to get away.

Still, as a police officer, McAvoy couldn’t help but admire Freddy’s protective instincts.

“It was his home, and motorcycles were the invaders,’’ he said.

On Freddy’s Facebook page, where a turkey with clouds and a halo around his head shed a single tear, fans paid their respects. Amy Blye said her ride home would never be the same, and Elaine Polito said she would miss sharing her blueberry muffin.

“If loving Freddy is wrong, then JC Alexander doesn’t want to be right,’’ wrote JC Alexander.